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Evidence Disposition: How to Make Room for a U-Haul

January 2, 2020

With new technologies, new techniques, and new standards of professionalism, the field of evidence management is changing every day; raising the bar for law enforcement agencies nationwide. Evidence custodians who are properly trained and committed to the highest standards of evidence management can tackle the inevitable challenges that will arise; thereby reducing the potential liability for the law enforcement agencies they serve.

Evidence custodians who have devoted their careers to evidence management – as demonstrated below – can provide valuable insights into what’s working, what isn’t, and what they see on the horizon. In an article by Behind the Badge, they write…  

Pieces of furniture etched in colorful scribble, computers, and a frozen dead bird, are just a sample of the items found at the La Habra Police Property & Evidence storage facility. The computer? It holds evidence in a sex crime case. The furniture? Those graffiti markings show gang affiliation and sometimes proof of retaliation. And the bird? Crucial evidence in a domestic violence case. The feathered friend was kept in a freezer while awaiting an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

One of the strangest things the La Habra Police Department stored was a large glass window with a handprint on it. For another case, they stored a samurai sword. And in a challenging moment for the department, they had to find space for the contents of an entire home.

crowded evidence room

“The most unusual thing that we had was a stolen U-Haul trailer. The contents of the U-Haul trailer were basically an apartment – water heater, cabinets, the whole thing,” said Senior Property and Evidence Officer Jessie Jaime, who’s been with the La Habra Police Department for 22 years, and in property and evidence for 13 years. “We had to book all the contents, into our evidence room.”

Jaime and Property Technician Rosie Ramos, who recently transferred from the Parking Unit to Property, handles about 10,000 pieces of evidence a year.

RELATED: Tackling the Evidence Accumulation Challenges With Auto Disposition

“We hold the keys to any given case or crime,” Jaime said. “We’re the ones who protect it, preserve it, and ensure that when it’s time for it to go to court we’re able to provide it.”

The department’s new property and evidence long-term storage space greatly expands the department’s storage capacity. That’s where DNA evidence such as urine, semen, vomit and items related to homicide cases are stored in highly-protected freezers, while long shelves along the walls hold boxes labeled by year.

“The least amount of hands that touch evidence, the better it is for the department, and the better it is for the chain of custody,” Jaime said, adding that each time the item is moved or touched by someone who isn’t a property officer, the date, time, and name must be logged. 

With the advent of evidence management software, the evidence lifecycle has been streamlined. From the time an item is collected in the field, the evidence lifecycle clock starts ticking. Some items will stay for weeks, others years, some forever. But each item stored in your property room has the same essential life cycle. 

  1. COLLECTION AND SUBMISSION

Evidence logging can begin from the field or in the evidence submission area. Either way, it’s imperative that the evidence is accurately labeled. Tracker Product’s SAFE software creates a clear label – including all of the pertinent details – which means no more hard-to-read, hand-written notes and no mountain of paperwork to sort through in the future. 

  1. INTAKE AND STORAGE

The intake process can be as simple as inspecting the package and two or three scans later, it’s ready for storage. During the evidence lifecycle, all handling is digitally recorded; maintaining an unbreakable chain of custody. 

  1. TRANSFER

If evidence needs to go to the lab for analysis or to court for trial, you can capture signatures and add attachments in the system. If you’re working with outside agencies or entities, you have the flexibility to print, release, or transfer documentation from the system too.

  1. DISPOSAL

The ultimate goal of every evidence/property unit is to continually dispose of more evidence than is being received. This final step in the evidence lifecycle is key to maintaining the organizational and functional qualities of your evidence facility. That’s what makes Tracker Product’s software invaluable to evidence custodians; our system will automatically send the submitting officer a retention review request, asking to approve the disposal of the item, if appropriate, or to retain it for a specified period of time; until the next automated review.

RELATED: Evidence and Auto Disposition: What it is, Why it’s important, and How it’s done!

Evidence custodians play a crucial role, not only for the law enforcement agencies they serve, but for the criminal justice system as a whole. It’s imperative for them to have the tools they need in order to make a positive contribution; namely, state-of-the-art evidence tracking software.  

Tracker Product’s SAFE evidence tracking software is more than just barcodes and inventory control, it’s an end-to-end chain of custody software for physical and digital evidence, resolving each of the critical issues facing evidence management today. 

To learn more about Tracker Products, CLICK HERE.

Or, if you’re interested in Evidence Management Training Classes from our sister company, VISIT EMI HERE.